Oda Petersen crochets afghans for those in need. The craft keeps her busy at her home in Carefree Manor. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press).

Oda Petersen crochets afghans for those in need. The craft keeps her busy at her home in Carefree Manor. (Kelly Sinoski photo - 100 Mile Free Press).

Crocheting for a cause

Senior still crochets dozens of blankets for the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre

Oda Petersen jokes that she is feeling old.

She will be 96 in a few weeks. They will have a cake for her at Carefree Manor that she will share with everyone else who has a February birthday.

If she had a choice, she would like a sponge cake with lots of fruit and whipped cream. And a party. She misses having her own celebration, something she enjoyed when she was at home in Buffalo Creek with her husband Jens and her four children.

Instead, after cake, she will likely retire to her tidy room, where she will pick up her crochet to pass the time. If all goes well, by Christmastime, she will have made more than a dozen lap blankets to donate to the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre.

“I’ve been crocheting all my life, that’s nothing new,” Petersen said, her fingers busily working on a rainbow afghan. “I’m just doing more now because there’s nothing to do. It’s an easy thing to do really. It keeps me busy.”

Petersen learned to crochet in Denmark when she was about nine. But she didn’t become hooked on the craft until she moved to Carefree Manor 10 years ago. At that time, there was large knitting and crocheting circle, but it has since fallen by the wayside.

A lot has changed over the decade – and in the past 66 years since Petersen and her husband Jens first came to the South Cariboo.

How they ended up there is a good question, she said. Her voice pauses, but her fingers keep working. She rarely looks at her work. She doesn’t have to count the stitches, which end at every row before she turns her work. By next week, this afghan will be done, added to the others she is collecting.

“My husband wanted to have his own ranch so he went looking for it and that’s where we ended up, in the Cariboo,” she said.

She remembers being homesick in the early days. She didn’t speak the language, although she later picked it up through night classes and from her daughter, who learned it in school. Their property had a well but no power or running water – that would come later – and she was kept busy doing chores and planting a garden.

There was almost “nothing” in 100 Mile at the time. Petersen recalls a grocery store near the highway and a small service station. There was no bank. She did most of her shopping from the Eatons catalogue.

“There was nothing here that’s for sure. It’s a nice little town now,” she said.

Eventually, though, the South Cariboo became home. As the town grew, Petersen got to know the local shopkeepers. A professional seamstress, she made blouses and dresses for those who wanted them. She didn’t have to advertise because it was a small town and word of mouth was enough.

People were happy with her work.

“That makes me feel good. Everybody was pleased with what I made,” she said.

She still has her sewing machine on a table by the window but no room to lay out the patterns so she’s given up her work.

“I do like making it. Right now I don’t have the facility to make anything and I’m getting slow too,” she said. “With dressmaking you have to know what you’re doing.”

Crocheting is a good alternative, she said. She gets the yarn for free and can make whatever she wants, although she prefers small afghans. Petersen estimates she has created a “good hundred” of them over the past decade. It takes her about two weeks to complete a lap blanket, depending on how long she “keeps at it.

“I’ve been doing it a long time,” she said. “I just have to use the yarn that I get so I have to match it as best as I can.”

Petersen initially donated her blankets to the women’s centre. These days, they are donated to the Cariboo Family Enrichment Centre, which places the afghans in specific hampers as part of its Touch of Christmas campaign.

Lorna Ross, of the CFEC, said Peterson donated more than a dozen afghans last Christmas. Like her dresses, most people tend to be delighted with them.

“Everyone says ‘oh they’re so nice, they’re beautiful,’” Ross said.

Petersen said she doesn’t usually hear from the people who receive her lap blankets but “maybe they don’t know who makes them,” she said.

She doesn’t know many people in town anymore as she rarely gets out these days. Occasionally she will take a spin into town in her Pontiac to buy a few necessities. She loves seeing the changes on the streets, the flowers in spring.

When she isn’t crocheting, she is reading short stories, enjoying her family. She has 10 grandchildren. Her son Harley and his wife Pam live nearby.

When asked the secret to a long life, she laughs, credits it to healthy living in a small town.

“I’ve been living up here all my life almost,” she said. “I think it’s a beautiful little place here. It’s a big advantage to live in a small town. You know everybody. It feels more like home than the big city.

“I’m happy we settled in 100 Mile.”


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